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NCC, Operators Differ On Mobile Portability Outcome 2yrs After

Nigeria is the largest market for multi-SIM phones and phone users with multi-SIMs handset are not porting

Isaiah Onwuanumba

With over 136 million mobile users and 83 million internet penetration only 150,000 subscribers ported from one operator to another in 2 years since the introduction of Mobile Number Portability. Regulator denies this is a failed campaign.

Initially, Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and operator disagree on the poor response to MNP. While company operators fingered other factors in the operating environment, NCC blamed service providers for acting as a barrier porting process. But recently, industry watchdog has toned down accusations.

In answering question from Technology Journalists in Lagos, Head Media and Publicity, NCC, Mr Reuben Muoka said MNP is a provision of choice and no subscriber can be forced to make choices.

According to him, the idea is to present as a choice and the good thing is that the opportunity is still open for anyone dissatisfied with one operator to switch to another network provider.

‘‘The issue is that people think Mobile Portability is a drive that everybody must port. This is wrong. Porting is a choice. Introduction of MNP lead to a lot of changes in the way operators treat customers.’’

Just few months before, NCC’s Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Mrs Maryam Bayi said about 150,000 subscribers have so far ported from one service provider to another. According to her, MNP is still very much open to anyone who wishes to switch operators for better service.

However, service providers fault multi-SIMs (Subscribers Identification Module) Phones as a barrier to free porting as customers can chose operators anytime with latest phone in the market and that this development has made porting remote choice.

Executive Director, Corporate Service, MTN Nigeria, Wale Goodluck said availability of multiple SIM handsets in Nigeria’s mobile market influenced customers’ attitude towards migrating from one service provider to another.

According to him, subscribers have handsets and smartphones that accommodate up to three (3) SIM cards and rather than switch operators handset owners switch network right with their cell phones. He explained that this developemt has negated porting and peoples’ attitude towards MNP.

‘’Multi-SIMing has affected MNP. Phone makers are shipping phones that can accomodate up to 3 SIMs. Nigeria is the largest market for multi-SIM phones and phone users with multi- SIMs handset are not porting.’’

Chief Operating Officer, Interconnect Clearinghouse Nigeria, Uche Onwudiwe said long list of processes and procedures from the donor to the recipient operators had contributed to discourage porting. ‘’Procedures and processes are slowing down the process. Number Portability ought to be swift. No customer would waste his time on endless procedures just because he wants to migrate to preferred service provider.’’

Nigerian Communications Commission’s Chief executive officer, Dr. Eugene Juwah said telecoms operators are the problem of MNP. According to him, service providers are refusing some people to port out especially if they are high value customers.

He said they don’t seem to realise that there is a business rule every one must adhere to. Some operators don’t want to obey the rules. According to him, it took alot of efforts to bring about MNP, adding that MNP was requested by customers. ‘’The rules must be applied. One day we will apply the rules’’, he affirmed .

Juwah noted that ‘‘if you refused someone to port because he is owning you that is against the rules and it will attract penalty. if someone tries your service for two days and want to port out but you deny him or her it is against the rules.’’ He said 90 days moratorium normally allowed before porting is being reviewed in other part of the world. He added that NCC will stand up to any effort to truncate MNP and that ‘‘we cannot be in a hurry to say MNP has not succeeded.’’

NCC recently said that a total of 29,756 mobile number porting were recorded in the month of February, 2015. This was contained in the “Incoming and Outgoing Porting Activities of Mobile Network Operators” report. The report showed that there was an increase of 2,932 in the Mobile Number Portability activities in the month of February, as against the 26,824 recorded in January. It said that of the 29,756 porting activities in February, 24,955 were incoming porting activities, while 14,801 were outgoing activities.

The report revealed that in the outgoing table, telecommunications giant, MTN Nigeria, lost a total of 6,951 subscribers to other networks through the MNP in February.

According to the report, MTN is the worst hit during the exercise, followed by Airtel Nigeria, which lost 3,655 customers in the month under review. The report said Globacom lost a total of 2,570 subscribers, while 1,625 customers of Etisalat Nigeria ported to other networks within the same period. However, in the incoming table, the report said Etisalat enjoyed the exercise most as it led with an additional 9,187 customers on its network in February.

Airtel came second on the gainers’ list, as it added 2,758 subscribers to its customer strength. Also on the gainers’ list, 1,532 subscribers moved to the Globacom network, while MTN Nigeria gained 1,478 customers as well in February 2015. NAN reports that the exercise was flagged off on April 22, 2013 by the NCC, with the aim of deepening competition.

MNP was initiated 2 years ago to help redress the issues of quality of service and to allow subscribers who are unsatisfied with their telecoms network to move to another network at the same time retain their numbers. Observers said since then porting has been abysmally low.

Many subscribers have cited reasons for not porting. Some say it is cheaper in terms of time spent and it is more convenient to obtain new mobile number than to port from one telecoms service provider to another.

To ensure that MNP becomes a success, Government through NCC appointed a consortium of Interconnect Clearing house Nigeria Limited, Saab Grintek, and Telecordia which was later acquired by Ericson. The companies set up and implemented MNP Clearing House in Nigeria, and provide an MNP administration solution in the country.

The NCC also mandates the consortium to ensure that local content participation and adequate skills transfer are entrenched in the process during the implementation of the fiveyear license.

With insignificant mobile users change from one service provider to another since MNP launch on April 22, 2013, observers have termed MNP failed project.

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